Victor Rebikoff Welcome to the movies at PS News.
   Each week, PS News’s film critic Victor Rebikoff will highlight the latest offerings from the silver screen and share his expert commentary for our information and guidance.

My Life in Ruins
   Director: Donald Petrie, 26 Films, Rated PG, 95 Minutes

The star of the 2002 runaway hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos returns in Donald Petrie’s feel-good romantic comedy, My Life in Ruins.
This is the first Hollywood movie to be given permission by the Greek Government to film at the internationally renowned Acropolis site since Sophia Loren’s Boy on a Dolphin in 1957.
   Nia plays Georgia, a Greek American expatriate who acts as a tour guide escorting a group of international tourists around some of Greece’s famous landmarks.
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   She is in competition with work colleague Nico (played by the irrepressible mimic, Alistair McGowan), with both guides keen to impress and gain favour from their tour operator boss, Maria (Bernice Stegers).
   At the start of her tour, Georgia gets a new driver, the scruffy-looking Poupi (played by handsome Greek actor Alexis Georgoulis), and a new group of stereotypical tourists.
   These include Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws) who plays Irv - an American widower with a knack for making jokes, a frequently tipsy couple from Australia who keep offering everyone cans of Foster’s beer, two scantily-dressed Spanish women looking for rich husbands, a well dressed English couple and of course the loud-mouthed American (Harland Williams).
   As is the case on this tour, most have little interest in Greek ruins but do like the Greek souvenirs, even if  they are ‘genuinely fake’ as exemplified by the hilarious lost in translation exchange between Nia, the Greek souvenir seller and the mouthy American.
   Surprisingly, despite a somewhat weak screenplay by Mike Reiss (responsible for many successful episodes of The Simpsons), the real attraction in My Life in Ruins is the charming but talented Nia Vardalos (who is absolutely perfect for her role), cast together with screen legend Richard Dreyfuss.
   They share a special chemistry that is really heartwarming.
   This is of course coupled with Jose Luis Alcaine’s splendid cinematography including some superb settings amongst Greece’s historic sights (which are thoroughly enjoyable on the big screen), as well as an appealing romantic story with lots of humorous moments.

VIC'S VERDICT:       3 ½ Rubber Stamps


DVD Releases
Watchmen
   Director: Zack Snyder, Rated MA, 162 Mins
   DVD release 30 July 2009

The soon to be released 2 Disc Special Edition DVD from Paramount is an absolutely mind blowing experience, with both discs devoted to some incredible special features.
   These include The Phenomenon: The Comic that Changed Comics: The Original Graphic Novel’s Groundbreaking Impact – a history of the Watchmen graphic novel, with a documentary that includes interesting interviews with former DC Comics editors and professionals.
   For many unfamiliar with the novel's legendary status, its ideas and themes, this piece is a wonderful introduction and retrospective.
   In addition, under the heading of Watchmen: Video Journals, there is a fascinating array of short featurettes, including:
  • The Minute Men - Introduction to the first generation of masked vigilantes
  • Sets and Sensibility- Set construction and design
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    Dressed for Success - Costume design
  • The Ship Has Eyes - Design and construction of Nite Owl's ship, Archie
  • Dave Gibbon - Illustrator Gibbons' impressions of the production
  • Burn Baby Burn - Fire stunt during the prison riot
  • Shoot to Thrill - Emulating the graphic novel's colour palette and look
  • Blue Monday - The wizardry behind Dr. Manhattan
  • Attention to Detail - Props and set dressings
  • Girls Kick Ass - Carla Gugino and Malin Akerman talk about their characters
  • Rorschach's Mask - Developing and portraying the Rorschach character
   Directed by Zack Snyder (of 300 fame), the movie is largely faithful to the story and characters in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' novel about a group of costumed superheroes, known as the Watchmen.
   Set in an alternate reality in 1985, Richard Nixon is still President and the world teeters on the brink of nuclear war.
   With such a complex storyline, it is to Snyder’s credit that he is still able to deliver a realistic edge to the many action sequences, using slow motion techniques to great effect and some fantastic settings.
   Through the use of a mostly 1960s soundtrack and some amazing special effects, Snyder has produced what can only be described as a visually stunning and dramatic portrayal of the Watchmen.
   After watching both discs of the DVD’s special edition, there is no doubt that the special features not only enhance the enjoyment of watching this blockbuster movie but should ensure the DVD becomes a prized possession.

VIC'S VERDICT:       4 Rubber Stamps

W.
   Director: Oliver Stone, Rated PG, 129 Mins
   DVD release July 2009

With the recent release of the Sony Pictures DVD, everyone will have the opportunity to own one of Oliver Stone’s most interesting movies.
   W is an entertaining and factual story  laced with good characterisations and humour that is delivered through the use of historical news reports.
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   Oliver Stone’s preoccupation with past American presidents continues with his skilful direction of W, a biopic on the controversial life of former US President George W Bush.
   Some people watching this movie may conclude it is a political satire but it is also a fascinating insight into W’s early years as the ‘wild’ son of President George Bush and the steps he took to achieve the presidency.
   The stand out performance is from Josh Brolin, whose excellent portrayal of George W. Bushis wonderfully complimented by Richard Dreyfuss as former Vice President, Dick Cheney.
   At the same time, the DVD has some special features which many will find quite engaging and intriguing.
   The director's commentary stresses his theme of a father-son discord, likening George W Bush's story to a Shakespearian play and the evils of power.
   Stone's son Sean also directs a piece called Dangerous Dynasty: The Bush Presidency, an interview summary illustrated with choice news footage and major Bush administration critics calmly dissecting key White House policies over the 8 years of his presidency.
   This is one DVD that belongs in the home collection.

VIC'S VERDICT:       4 Rubber Stamps

Frozen River
   Director: Courtney Hunt, Sony DVD, Rated M, 97 Mins
   DVD release July 2009

Courtney Hunt’s début feature, Frozen River is a powerful thriller as well as a heartfelt, poignant drama about two beleaguered women who are thrown together to try to rise above their meagre existence.
   When her gambling-addicted husband takes off with the money she had put aside to buy a mobile home, Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo) strikes up an unlikely alliance with a Mohawk Indian, bingo caller Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham) in a bid to provide for her two children.
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   Together, they start trafficking immigrants from Canada to the USA, through an Indian reservation across the St Laurence River.
   It is the River which is a real concern for Ray who drives fully packed car across the temporarily frozen river at night.
   What makes this recently released DVD a must to own is a great script from first time writer (and director) Courtney Hunt, some magnificent cinematic settings and powerful performances from both lead actresses.
   Leo and Upham are extraordinary and play their roles to perfection, with Leo especially portraying an older woman who breathlessly deals with the constant blows that life dishes out to her.
   Frozen River is beautifully presented on the DVD as a new film shot in digital HD.
   The significant extra in the features is the commentary track with director Hunt and producer Heather Rae outlining some of Hunt's production techniques and how she became a filmmaker.
   She and Rae remark on production points here and there, and provide an interesting background on Frozen River's origins as a short film shown at the New York Film Festival.
   It is no wonder that Frozen Riverwon this year's Sundance Grand Jury Prize.

VIC'S VERDICT:       4 ½ Rubber Stamps

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